Alphasat, Europe´s largest and most sophisticated telecommunications satellite, was launched into its planned orbit from Europe's Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, this July.
In this issue, we look at 'ExoMars, ESA's next step in Mars exploration'. Establishing if life ever existed on Mars is one of the outstanding scientific questions of our time. To do this, ESA and Russia´s space agency Roscosmos have signed an agreement to work in partnership to develop and launch two ExoMars missions, in 2016 and 2018.
We also look to later this year, when 'ESA´s billion-star surveyor', Gaia, will be launched. Gaia has already completed its final preparations in Europe and is departing as we write for its launch site in French Guiana, set to embark
on a five-year mission to map the stars with unprecedented precision.
Then we look back in time, literally, with a summary of the latest results from ESA's Planck mission. Planck is designed to measure and analyse, with the highest accuracy ever achieved, the remnants of the radiation that filled the Universe immediately
after the Big Bang - 13.8 billion years ago - looking back to the dawn of time. The Planck results are certain to move cosmology in interesting and possibly new directions.
In 'Green growth', we see how Earth observation information provides a key contribution to the planning, implementation and monitoring of large international development projects. ESA has been collaborating with multilateral development banks since 2008 to demonstrate the value of such information to their investments taking place in developing countries.
Closing this issue, we put a spotlight on 'NightPod', an ingenious device designed by ESA to improve the images of Earth taken by astronauts on the International Space Station, and here you can see some of the impressive results.